9 Songs, 41 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Since they burst out of Toronto during the mid-2000s in a tangle of pawn-shop keyboards and effects pedals, Holy Fuck has inspired all manner of colorful descriptors—they’re a psychedelic synth-funk machine, an avant-improv dance-tent attraction, and a Krautrock party band all in one. What they haven’t been is a tune generator for other featured artists. “We never wanted to make that electronic record where every song had a different singer on it,” band co-founder Brian Borcherdt tells Apple Music. "A lot of those records always felt too disjointed and too much of a gimmick.” However, over time, Borcherdt has come to see the practical benefits of outsourcing vocal duties. Where past Holy Fuck albums treated Borcherdt and Graham Walsh’s voices as textural elements that get emulsified in the band’s noisy swirl, their fifth album, Deleter, sees them recruit guest singers like Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, Liars’ Angus Andrew, and Pond’s Nick Allbrook. “The cameo-core thing seems to make more sense in the streaming era,” Borcherdt says. "You can release tidbits and different one-offs, and there's a connectivity that draws in fans of different bands. There's a different way of absorbing music now, so we feel differently about some of these things than we would’ve 10 years ago.” He tells us more about what inspired that change of heart as he breaks down each of the album’s songs.

Luxe (feat. Alexis Taylor)
“I had a vocal melody that I wrote and recorded over this whole song, and Graham's reply was, 'We should get Alexis to sing on it!' We wanted the vocal to sound like a found sample, or something from an old record. And so Alexis was like, ‘Well, if that's the case, then why don’t I go to Nashville and sing it through the Voice-o-Graph [a vintage recording booth at Jack White’s Third Man studio], and it'll literally be an old record, and I'll send you the sound files.' We actually cleaned up his vocal, because he basically gave us a digital version of a scratchy record, and we thought, ‘If this is going to go on to a track that has all these different rhythms and textures going on, we're actually going to have to take out some of these pops and clicks and scratches.’”

Deleters (feat. Angus Andrew)
“We've played lots of shows with Liars, and we actually reached out to Angus to sing on a different track, but didn't end up keeping that vocal. With 'Deleters,’ I originally imagined a woman singing the hook. And we reached out to a lot of friends, but nobody really could commit. Katie [Monks] from Dilly Dally actually tried singing it, but in the end, she wasn't happy with it. So we were just kicking it around and Angus was already going to sing some other bit for us, and he's got his cool falsetto that's kind of iconic to the way he sings, so it just made sense for him to do it. My original vocal harmonies are layered in there, so having Angus is just like the icing on the cake that just makes it that much cooler.”

Endless
“That’s Graham singing. He brought in all the different parts, but everything within this band is a conversation, it's never one-sided. So Graham had some ideas, but then we parse through those ideas and connect them with the band that we are. We had just toured with Explosions in the Sky, so we were like, ‘We want it to be like that, but not too much like that!'”

Free Gloss (feat. Nicholas Allbrook)
“As much as we wanted to keep things organic and reach out to our friends, our management was a little more savvy. But still, it wouldn’t seem right to us if we didn't have a personal connection with the person. So we actually did go see Pond when they came to town and met them all and hung out, and had a really good time. And Nick was actually supposed to sing vocals with us the next morning, but he was too hung over from the night before! Still, at least it felt like, ‘Okay, this is grounded in something. This feels like someone we could hang out with.' In the end, he made a true cameo: He comes in for that vocal on the bridge, much like a rapper would have in a late-'90s R&B song.”

Moment
"In a way, this is almost like the most Holy Fuck of the songs—to my ear, it sounds kind of like where we've gone in the past. But it does have a bit more Moroder and Italo-disco in there. In a lot of ways, we did our best to write our own language for the first 10 years of being a band. We tried to do things in a very idiosyncratic way. But after so many years of doing that, and flying all over the world, playing on these festivals, all those old keyboards just broke. They just don't last! So where we're going now is applying that old language to more conventional means, like programmable drum machines and MIDI. And with that kind of dynamic, it's suddenly going to sound more Italo-disco, because we have those tools now.”

Near Mint
“This started with the bassline—Punchy [aka Matt McQuaid] had his chorus pedal on, and we thought it sounded like an early Cure song off of Faith. And then at some point, it just turned into Krautrock, because everything we do eventually becomes Krautrock. But it feels like it picks up on some of the more obvious Krautrock influences—like the first three Can records or the first Neu! record—and then in the next phase, it turns into something more synthy and dreamy, like Harmonia and Cluster. It starts in one place and then ends up somewhere else unexpected. There's something very relaxing about that song.”

No Error
“That vocal is part of a live performance, but I sang it into my Casio SK-8, so I grabbed that sample and dropped it in. I was like, 'It'd be cool if this song had a sample for a vocal,' and I was like, ‘Well, I guess I can do that right here, right now.' That's why it sounds kind of messed up: I'm singing over top of the sample, so it sort of flanges a little bit between a live vocal repeating the same thing as the sample. It ends up being really minimal, because there's no click track or drum machine beat. On most of our songs, there's usually something keeping a rhythm or a pulse, and that one was a little bit more off the cuff, which was fun for us, because we weren't locked into some metronome.”

San Sebastian
“Almost every one of these songs started somewhere on the road—like ‘Luxe’ started in Luxembourg, from an encore where we just made something up, and this one started at a sound check in San Sebastian. That's just a vocal mic running through the mixer, live. But it's the same mixer that I'm playing the guitar through, so what you're hearing on that signal is the guitar and vocal fusing together. And then you have Graham playing those weird pulses and eerie drones.”

Ruby
“This one almost didn’t make it—the [phone-recorded] demo just sounded way too sh**ty. I would hear the song and be like, ‘This sounds amazing,' but every time I tried to play it for the guys, they'd be like, ‘I can't hear what's going on! It’s too murky.’ So we tried to reverse engineer it, and the first attempt was just lame. We were like, 'This sounds like Tom Cochrane—what happened? It sounds like some Graceland-meets-Bruce Springsteen tune.’ It totally went off the rails in the wrong direction, because it was hard to really hear that initial seed that made the demo exciting. So we had to go back and really listen to it for the 10th time and then we realized, ‘No, this is a weird, droney, scary song.’ And the moment we did get it, we were like, ‘It's also going to be the last song'—we just knew it would pull everything together.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Since they burst out of Toronto during the mid-2000s in a tangle of pawn-shop keyboards and effects pedals, Holy Fuck has inspired all manner of colorful descriptors—they’re a psychedelic synth-funk machine, an avant-improv dance-tent attraction, and a Krautrock party band all in one. What they haven’t been is a tune generator for other featured artists. “We never wanted to make that electronic record where every song had a different singer on it,” band co-founder Brian Borcherdt tells Apple Music. "A lot of those records always felt too disjointed and too much of a gimmick.” However, over time, Borcherdt has come to see the practical benefits of outsourcing vocal duties. Where past Holy Fuck albums treated Borcherdt and Graham Walsh’s voices as textural elements that get emulsified in the band’s noisy swirl, their fifth album, Deleter, sees them recruit guest singers like Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, Liars’ Angus Andrew, and Pond’s Nick Allbrook. “The cameo-core thing seems to make more sense in the streaming era,” Borcherdt says. "You can release tidbits and different one-offs, and there's a connectivity that draws in fans of different bands. There's a different way of absorbing music now, so we feel differently about some of these things than we would’ve 10 years ago.” He tells us more about what inspired that change of heart as he breaks down each of the album’s songs.

Luxe (feat. Alexis Taylor)
“I had a vocal melody that I wrote and recorded over this whole song, and Graham's reply was, 'We should get Alexis to sing on it!' We wanted the vocal to sound like a found sample, or something from an old record. And so Alexis was like, ‘Well, if that's the case, then why don’t I go to Nashville and sing it through the Voice-o-Graph [a vintage recording booth at Jack White’s Third Man studio], and it'll literally be an old record, and I'll send you the sound files.' We actually cleaned up his vocal, because he basically gave us a digital version of a scratchy record, and we thought, ‘If this is going to go on to a track that has all these different rhythms and textures going on, we're actually going to have to take out some of these pops and clicks and scratches.’”

Deleters (feat. Angus Andrew)
“We've played lots of shows with Liars, and we actually reached out to Angus to sing on a different track, but didn't end up keeping that vocal. With 'Deleters,’ I originally imagined a woman singing the hook. And we reached out to a lot of friends, but nobody really could commit. Katie [Monks] from Dilly Dally actually tried singing it, but in the end, she wasn't happy with it. So we were just kicking it around and Angus was already going to sing some other bit for us, and he's got his cool falsetto that's kind of iconic to the way he sings, so it just made sense for him to do it. My original vocal harmonies are layered in there, so having Angus is just like the icing on the cake that just makes it that much cooler.”

Endless
“That’s Graham singing. He brought in all the different parts, but everything within this band is a conversation, it's never one-sided. So Graham had some ideas, but then we parse through those ideas and connect them with the band that we are. We had just toured with Explosions in the Sky, so we were like, ‘We want it to be like that, but not too much like that!'”

Free Gloss (feat. Nicholas Allbrook)
“As much as we wanted to keep things organic and reach out to our friends, our management was a little more savvy. But still, it wouldn’t seem right to us if we didn't have a personal connection with the person. So we actually did go see Pond when they came to town and met them all and hung out, and had a really good time. And Nick was actually supposed to sing vocals with us the next morning, but he was too hung over from the night before! Still, at least it felt like, ‘Okay, this is grounded in something. This feels like someone we could hang out with.' In the end, he made a true cameo: He comes in for that vocal on the bridge, much like a rapper would have in a late-'90s R&B song.”

Moment
"In a way, this is almost like the most Holy Fuck of the songs—to my ear, it sounds kind of like where we've gone in the past. But it does have a bit more Moroder and Italo-disco in there. In a lot of ways, we did our best to write our own language for the first 10 years of being a band. We tried to do things in a very idiosyncratic way. But after so many years of doing that, and flying all over the world, playing on these festivals, all those old keyboards just broke. They just don't last! So where we're going now is applying that old language to more conventional means, like programmable drum machines and MIDI. And with that kind of dynamic, it's suddenly going to sound more Italo-disco, because we have those tools now.”

Near Mint
“This started with the bassline—Punchy [aka Matt McQuaid] had his chorus pedal on, and we thought it sounded like an early Cure song off of Faith. And then at some point, it just turned into Krautrock, because everything we do eventually becomes Krautrock. But it feels like it picks up on some of the more obvious Krautrock influences—like the first three Can records or the first Neu! record—and then in the next phase, it turns into something more synthy and dreamy, like Harmonia and Cluster. It starts in one place and then ends up somewhere else unexpected. There's something very relaxing about that song.”

No Error
“That vocal is part of a live performance, but I sang it into my Casio SK-8, so I grabbed that sample and dropped it in. I was like, 'It'd be cool if this song had a sample for a vocal,' and I was like, ‘Well, I guess I can do that right here, right now.' That's why it sounds kind of messed up: I'm singing over top of the sample, so it sort of flanges a little bit between a live vocal repeating the same thing as the sample. It ends up being really minimal, because there's no click track or drum machine beat. On most of our songs, there's usually something keeping a rhythm or a pulse, and that one was a little bit more off the cuff, which was fun for us, because we weren't locked into some metronome.”

San Sebastian
“Almost every one of these songs started somewhere on the road—like ‘Luxe’ started in Luxembourg, from an encore where we just made something up, and this one started at a sound check in San Sebastian. That's just a vocal mic running through the mixer, live. But it's the same mixer that I'm playing the guitar through, so what you're hearing on that signal is the guitar and vocal fusing together. And then you have Graham playing those weird pulses and eerie drones.”

Ruby
“This one almost didn’t make it—the [phone-recorded] demo just sounded way too sh**ty. I would hear the song and be like, ‘This sounds amazing,' but every time I tried to play it for the guys, they'd be like, ‘I can't hear what's going on! It’s too murky.’ So we tried to reverse engineer it, and the first attempt was just lame. We were like, 'This sounds like Tom Cochrane—what happened? It sounds like some Graceland-meets-Bruce Springsteen tune.’ It totally went off the rails in the wrong direction, because it was hard to really hear that initial seed that made the demo exciting. So we had to go back and really listen to it for the 10th time and then we realized, ‘No, this is a weird, droney, scary song.’ And the moment we did get it, we were like, ‘It's also going to be the last song'—we just knew it would pull everything together.”

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